Web Hosting FAQ
What is web hosting?
Web hosting refers to the process of publishing a web site so that
it is available to the world on the Web. Paid web hosting also involves
getting a domain name and not having forced ads displayed on your
What is a domain name?
Domain name is the sequence of letters and number determining the
address of your site. This site's domain name is "FindMerchant.com."
You need to register a domain name before your web site becomes
accessible at this address.
What are PHP, SQL, Java, IP, etc.?
Those acronyms refer to various features such as programming languages,
databases, etc. that might be available with a hosting plan.
What is shared (virtual) web hosting?
Shared (or virtual) web hosting is the most fitting way of hosting
for 99% of web sites. It means that a web hosting company will have
one or more servers (computers constantly connected to the Internet
that run a web server software such as Apache or IIS) that will
be running multiple web sites (it will be shared). Unless a web
site is exceptionally busy or requires a lot of bandwidth, this
is the least expensive way to go to get a real web site. You can
still have your own IP address with virtual hosting and the site
won't look any different to users. Other options are dedicated,
co-location, or doing it yourself web hosting. In those options
you have the whole computer to yourself and you can do things like
install your own software.
Can I keep my domain name when I change a host?
Yes. We recommend that you register your domain name with a separate
registrar before getting a hosting plan (please see our Domain Name
Guide). Then, when you need to move to another host, you just need
to point your domain's name servers to this new host. If you registered
your domain name with a host and you now want to move, you should
find your registration records or contact this host and ask them
how to control your domain name. If you have a problem, you can
usually see the name of the registrar by performing a "Whois"
query on your domain name and contact them.
Does it make a difference what type of desktop
computer I use?
No. This will only make a difference if you develop scripts that
you want to use without changes on your web site. FrontPage extensions
can also be done on Unix (or Linux) servers.
What is domain parking?
Domain parking lets you cheaply reserve a domain name for future
use and display an "under construction" default page on
it. You can register a domain and not park it anywhere but then
your site will be simply inaccessible until you get a web host.
Some registrar let you park your domain for free.
What is full-service web hosting?
"Full-service" can refer to a variety of services offered
in addition to providing web space, transfer, and emails for a web
site. For example, it could be 24/7 toll free phone support, web
design services, or web site content maintenance services.
What are the numbers listed under "space"
Space is the amount of "stuff" you can put on your web
site. Available space is usually listed in megabytes (MB, millions
of bytes). Single letter takes up one byte. HTML files are usually
rather small (this file is about 25,000 bytes) but pictures and
programs can get quite big. Your scripts, emails and stats will
also take up space on your host.
Transfer is the amount of "stuff" that visitors to your
site can download before you reach your monthly limit. Transfer
is usually listed in gigabytes (billions of bytes). After the transfer
limit is reached for the month, you will need to pay extra for additional
transfer at higher rates. For example, if an average visitor to
your site views 3 HTML pages of 20 KB (thousands of bytes) each
and 8 small embedded pictures of 10 KB each, and you get 500 visitors
per day, you will require at least (3 * 20 + 8 * 10) * 500 * 30
= 2,100,000 KB = 2.1 GB of transfer per month.
How do I pay for web hosting?
What methods of payment are accepted depends on each individual
host. Almost everybody accepts credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.
Vast majority of plans require periodic (usually monthly up to yearly)
How do I upload my site?
The main method of uploading files to your site's account is by
using FTP. When you sign up with a host, you will probably get an
FTP account that lets you access files in your account (usually
ftp.yoursitename.com and your main account name and password). Then
you can use a built-in Windows or Internet Explorer FTP client,
or some other software that supports FTP such as CuteFTP, WS_FTP,
or Windows Commander, to transfer files from your hard drive to
your account. If you don't get an FTP account or if you prefer a
Web interface, you can use your account control panel's File Manager
instead. Yet another method is to use an SSH or telnet client software,
such as SecureCRT, to upload using Zmodem protocol (sz and rz commands).
All these methods will work fine, but we recommend using dedicated
FTP programs as the preferred solution because these programs have
the best user interfaces and support advanced options like setting
file permissions and resuming aborted file transfers.
What is uptime?
Uptime is the percentage of time that a web site is working. For
example, if some host has an uptime average of 99.86%, this means
that your site will be down for a total about 1 hour each month.
We monitor uptime of customer websites of many web hosts and we
display this data on the host's details page. Some hosts also offer
"uptime guarantees" but this is not as valuable as it
might appear (see our gotchas page for more details).
pages on my site?
Yes. Those are client-side technologies, so the host doesn't have
to do anything to support or enable them. Any browser (such as Internet
Explorer or Netscape) that supports them is enough, so any host
will do. It doesn't matter whether Java or Flash are listed among
plan's features, they are supported by default.
Should I use a Unix (Linux, SunOS, BSD, etc.)
or Windows NT (Windows 2000) based server?
Which operating system you decide to use should depend on what
features you need. For example, if you are already using IIS, ASP,
VBScript, Windows Media, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server,
or Visual InterDev, and you don't have the time to learn Unix-based
solutions, you'll have to choose a Windows NT or Windows 2000-based
host. Just because your desktop is Windows-based doesn't mean you
should use a Windows host. You may notice that Linux-based operating
systems and Apache Web servers are most common among web hosting
companies. This due to Apache's many shared-hosting features, a
good track record of stability and performance and because Linux
and Apache are free. In addition to cross-platform products like
Java or Cold Fusion, it is also possible to find hosts that run
unusual combinations that for example let you use Apache on Windows
NT or ASP on Linux.
Even if you use FrontPage and its extensions for your site design,
you can find many web hosts that will support these extensions on
a Unix system using out Advanced Search page.
How much data transfer will I need?
You can figure out how much data transfer you will require by estimating
your average page size (including graphics!) and multiplying it
by the number of page views you expect to have in a month. For example
with an average page size of 50 KB, and around 2000 page views per
day, you will transfer an average of 3 GB per month. In this case,
you should get a plan with 4 to 5 GB of data transfer limit per
month, so you don't have to worry about overstepping your account's
limit, which may cause extra per GB transfer charges.
Can't I just get a DSL line or a cable modem and
host the site or my own computer?
Sure, you could do that, but it's not a good idea for several reasons.
First, vast majority of ISPs won't let you legally use a residential
cable modem or a DSL line to host a public server. You would have
to get a more expensive business package. Second, ADSL and cable
lines usually have lower upstream bandwidth than downstream bandwidth,
so your site may appear to be sluggish under heavy traffic. Third,
DSL and cable lines have a much lower reliability than dedicated
T1 or better lines. Fourth, you wouldn't have the benefit of data
security, data backup, UPS power, and technical support that a host
Do I need stats?
Probably not. If you can access raw logs, you could download them
and analyze them on your home computer with a stats program yourself.
However, the log files can get quite large for popular sites, so
having the server analyze them may be more convenient. You could
also use a service like WebTrends, theCounter.com, or Site Meter
to get more detailed stats on your users than any host's stats program
My site is database-driven and uses 50 GB per
month in transfer. Can I simply use a host with an unlimited transfer
plan for $10 per month?
No. Most hosts are in business to make money and they would lose
money hosting your site. They have to pay from $0.3 to $5 per GB
of transfer to upstream providers themselves. Almost all hosts that
have "unlimited" plans specify in their acceptable use
policies that no site can use an "excessive" amount of
resources. If you use too much disk space, bandwidth, or CPU time,
these "unlimited" hosts will ask you to upgrade or leave.
Is there any advantage to a host that uses a Cobalt
RaQ to one that uses a normal Linux computer?
No. RaQs are made specifically for hosting and they have pre-installed
software that is optimized for hosting but experienced hosts can
build and administer their own server just as well for less money.
RaQs do have an advantage of being physically smaller.
Can I run my own software on my site?
This depends on a web host and a plan. Most plans will allow running
scripts in languages such as Perl or PHP. Some plans will also allow
you to compile program in C/C++ and run them. Some Unix plans will
also allow you to run "cron" which enables you to automatically
execute programs or scripts on at a specific time and date. However
to get a full control over all aspects of your server, you will
need a dedicated or co-located server instead of a shared plan.
Do I need a static IP address for my site?
Maybe. There are some advantages to having a unique IP for your
site. When you change servers, you can point your users to a new
IP, so they don't have to wait for the domain name change to propagate.
With a static IP, it can also be simpler to upload and test your
site before transferring the domain name to a new server. Setting
up SSL is also much simpler. You may also not want to share your
IP with some sites that could lead to your site being banned by
search engines or spam lists.
Do I need to use host's search engine submission
No. Some search engine submission tools are better than others
and some big search engines don't like automated submission. You
should submit manually to major directories like Yahoo!, ODP, or
Looksmart, and you may also prefer to submit manually to major search
Should I simply choose a cheapest plan?
We wouldn't recommend choosing any plan below $5 per month if you
expect to get a reasonable level of technical support.
Will the bandwidth prices fall soon?
Bandwidth prices are gradually decreasing. It is now possible for
hosts to pay less than $1 per GB of transfer in chunks of 100 GB.
New companies like Cogent Communications are building fiber-optic
networks and promise 100 Mbps of bandwidth across their network
to multi-tenant office buildings in major cities for $1,000/month.
The question is whether they will be able to peer with established
telecoms without raising prices.
How can hosts make money offering high transfer
limits for low prices?
They count on the fact that the majority of sites won't use anywhere
close to the full amount of transfer available. This overselling
is usually a valid assumption and it is done in many other business
Are there any extra costs involved in hosting
a secure site?
Yes, you'll need to get a digital certificate from a Certificate
Authority such as VeriSign, Thawte, or Equifax Secure.
Should I worry that my host is a reseller?
Probably not. It is quite possible to get better support or prices
from a reseller than from a base company. Resellers are usually
smaller companies and since they don't own the server, sometimes
they have to wait for the parent company to perform some tasks.
Should I go with a big or small hosting company?
This depends on your preferences. Large companies might be considered
to have better chances of staying in business for a long time and
may be able to negotiate better deals for their customers, but small
hosts are usually cheaper, provide better support for individuals
and small businesses, and are quicker to offer new features.
Are there any advantages to getting a domain name
with Network Solutions instead of a cheaper company?
I don't want my site to be down. Ever. What host
should I use?
No host can provide 100% uptime. We monitor uptime for many hosts
and you could use these data as a guide, but even the biggest and
best multi-million dollar sites go down from time to time due to
various unforeseen circumstances. The best you can find is an uptime
guarantee, with the host offering refunds for downtime.
Can I reduce the amount of data transfer my site
Usually yes. Try to optimize all the graphics on your site. Many
GIFs don't look noticeably worse with fewer colors. Don't duplicate
graphics files, let the browser cache them. Try to clean up your
HTML by using relative paths, short filenames, less extras, and
reducing the number of spaces and new lines. If your site is mainly
text-based, ask your host about using HTTP compression module like